Almost six in 10 soldiers drink so much they could be considered alcoholics, according to a Ministry of Defence report.
The document analysing the drinking and drug-taking habits of Army recruits found that 58 per cent were “considered possibly dependent on alcohol” and drinking at levels considered a health hazard.
Soldiers blame the drinking culture on the Army, which they say encourages regular binges and drinking to excess.
The report found that more than six in 10 soldiers had six or more drinks in any one session, with one in five admitting they were unable to stop drinking once they started.
A third of those interviewed also admitted that they had injured themselves or someone else as a result of drinking in the last year.
Around 6 per cent of the civilian population drink at levels which indicate dependency – but this report concludes that the Army figure was 10 times higher.
The report also found that excessive drinking was a factor in drug-taking, with many admitted they probably would not have taken drugs had they not been drunk.
The study, conducted in November last year, interviewed more than 100 soldiers at three locations – Redford Barracks in Edinburgh, Longmoor Camp in Hampshire and Larkhill Camp in Wiltshire.
One soldier, quoted anonymously, said: “I didn’t really think I’d change at all in drinking, because I didn’t like the taste of alcohol really. But then I joined Army life and they take you out on the piss and I got my first taste for Jack Daniel’s. And then I was spending near enough most of my wages because I was going out two nights a week drinking.”
The report concludes that the Army needed to conduct an “immediate investigation into the medical and disciplinary context within which alcohol issues are treated in the Army”.
The Ministry of Defence has said it had now put in place support programmes, particularly for when soldiers are known to drink the most, after tours of duty.
A spokesman said: “All three services run robust programmes designed to raise awareness and promote the message of sensible drinking. The sale of alcohol and individual consumption limits are strictly regulated, particularly when personnel are serving operationally.”
He added: “Individuals identified as being at risk receive counselling and welfare support including attendance on preventative early intervention programmes.”
By Chris Irvine
Last Updated: 1:19AM GMT 22 Dec 2008
Source: The Telegraph